Will Kerala’s snake boat make it to Thames river?

Thiruvananthapuram, June 8 (IANS) Kerala has sought the central government’s financial help to showcase its famous snake boat before the British queen on London’s Thames river next month.

Speaking to IANS Tuesday, state Sports Minister M. Vijayakumar said: ‘The state government has earmarked a sum of money but that is not enough. We have requested the central government to help us but we are yet to hear from them. The oarsmen, who have to power the boat forward, are ready but money is an issue.’

The proposal to this effect came from an organisation Keralyeem, which has its roots in Britain, that is interested in showcasing the race as part of a trial run of the inaugural ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics.

Queen Elizabeth II is expected to watch the July 8 event.

The organisers of the event have roped in superstar Suresh Gopi as the brand ambassador for the event.

Speaking to IANS, Gopi said that the commitment that he has made stands and he will foot the bill to transport the boat to London.

‘My fans’ association has agreed to pool in Rs.20 lakhs required to be paid to the Shipping Corporation of India for transporting the snake boat to London. Other things like arranging for the remaining funds and visa for close to 120 oarsmen are still to fall in line,’ said Gopi.

The state government has already sanctioned Rs.one crore for the event but this is not going to be enough.

‘The air fares for the oarsmen is also going to cost a hefty amount. The organisers were supposed to get back to me two days back.

‘But we are not disheartened because we have been able to do this much in such a short span of time and if for some reason it (its participation in London) does not happen this time, we will do it next year,’ said Gopi.

The length of a snake boat made out of ‘anjili wood’ varies from 120 to 140 feet. In view of the high cost of transportation, if the snake boat finally makes it to London, then after the event it would be gifted to be placed in a museum there.

The origin of the race dates back to 1952 when an impromptu event was conducted in honour of the country’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, who was visiting the state. Nehru was so thrilled by the performance that he himself jumped into a snake boat.

On returning to Delhi, Nehru donated a silver trophy — a replica of a snake boat placed on a wooden abacus with an inscription and his signature.

This trophy is given away every year to the winner of the boat race held at Alappuzha.